Pittsburgh holds off Buffalo in the second half, 84-79
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Six Panthers broke into double digit scoring, including Cameron Johnson and Michael Young, who each scored 17 points as Pittsburgh survived a late scare from Buffalo to win, 84-79 Wednesday night.
Pitt was looking to move on from a loss to crosstown rival Duquesne and had seemingly done that, going up by 26 points midway through the first half. But the Bulls clawed back with a 16-2 run to end the first half and got as close as one point in the second half.
The end-of-half troubles represent something of a trend for Pitt. The same issue cropped up in the previous game.
“I thought for about 15 minutes to start the game, we played very, very well. We seem to have trouble closing the half,” head coach Kevin Stallings said. “We show stretches where we’re capable of being dominant.”
Pitt (7-2) shot a crisp 54.5 percent from the field, hitting 30 of 55, including 7 of 18 from beyond the arc and 17 of 25 from the line. But there were issues on defense as the Bulls closed the gap.
“We kind of just took our foot off the gas. That carried over into the second half,” said senior forward Sheldon Jeter. “I think we just got a little bit complacent.”
Buffalo (4-5) got 23 points and eight rebounds from forward Nick Perkins, whose move from center from forward to combat Pitt’s athletic lineup paid dividends. Blake Hamilton also moved to forward and scored 18 as Buffalo shot 49.2 percent (30 of 61).
“Really, once we got Nick more at the five and played Blake a lot more at the four, we got going and it helped out a lot attacking the press,” said head coach Nate Oats.
Buffalo: C.J. Massinburg played his first game of the season after missing time due to mono and made an immediate impact, scoring 14 points and providing a much-needed fourth scoring option behind Hamilton, Perkins and Willie Conner.
“Some of the younger guys got some experience while he was out, which I think will help us moving forward,” head coach Nate Oats said. “We knew we had four scorers. . We really need all four of those guys clicking.”
Pitt: Senior point guard Jamel Artis returned after serving a one-game suspension for failing to uphold the standards of the team. Artis scored 16 points and made the Pitt offense flow significantly better than it had against the Dukes. The Panthers had 20 assists on 30 baskets, including three from Artis.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Turnovers have plagued the Bulls through the early part of the season. They came into the game with an average turnover margin of -5.3, but reversed that trend against Pitt, turning the ball over eight times while grabbing 10 steals from the Panthers.
Pitt was outscored off the bench, 22-11 and their contributions lacked depth, as all 11 came from forward Ryan Luther. As a result of the ineffective bench, Stallings played four players more than 32 minutes.
Buffalo: Will return home for a date with Coppin State on Saturday. The Bulls have played just one home game so far this season, a 85-38 win over Nazareth on Nov. 17. Buffalo went 2-4 in its just-completed six-game road swing.
Pitt: Travels to Newark, New Jersey to face Penn State in the neutral-site Never Forget Tribute Classic. The traditional rivals have played 146 times, but not since 2013. Pitt has won its last six games against Penn State.